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Theologians speak out

Editor's preface and apologia:

This is my personal project. I believe it is in keeping with the goals of ARCC, but I do not wish to have anyone other than myself held responsible. Shortly after I announced this web site on Vatican2 I received an essay by a Professor of Church History at a Catholic institution of higher learning who wondered how he might go about publishing the article in these "dangerous times" without forcing his bishop to fire him for open dissent. Suddenly I felt cold, as I flashed back to my childhood in Austria during the Second World War and remembered my parents hovering close to the radio set, listening intently to static and unintelligible words in a foreign language, forbidden words in a forbidden language.

I sensed their terror that the wrong person might open the door and all of us might be arrested because they allowed forbidden ideas to be heard, and they might even be thinking or expressing forbidden ideas. Years later, when I read of thoughtcrime and Thought Police in Orwell's 1984 I remembered those times, but I never until this moment allowed myself to connect the Orwellian fortress-like Ministry of Truth with the contemporary church. And yet there are strong parallels between the Orwellian dystopia and those powers in the institutional church that want to squash all dissent and return to the 19th century garrison church of enforced uniformity.

It is with deep concern, with "brennender Sorge," to quote Pope Pius XI out of context, that I dedicate this section of the ARCC/Vatican2 Web Site to the task of implementing the principles of religious liberty and human dignity affirmed by the Second Vatican Council but generally applied primarily to institutions other than the church itself.

We read in The Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis humanae), promulgated on 7 December 1965:

  • The Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. Freedom of this kind means that all men should be immune from coercion on the part of individuals, social groups and every human power so that, within due limits, nobody is forced to act against his convictions nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his convictions in religous matters in private or in public, alone or in associations with others.(sec. 2)
  • It is in accordance with their dignity that all men, because they are persons, that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore bearing personal responsibility, are both impelled by their nature and bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. (sec. 2)
  • Religious communities have the further right not to be prevented from publicly teaching and bearing witness to their beliefs by the spoken or written word. However, in spreading religious belief and in introducing religious practices everybody must at all times avoid any action which seems to suggest coercion or dishonest or unworthy persuasion especially when dealing with the uneducated or the poor. Such a manner of acting must be considered an abuse of one's own right and an infringement of the rights of others. (sec. 4)
  • It is certain therefore that men of the present day want to profess their religion freely in private and in public. Indeed it is a fact that religious freedom has already been declared a civil right in most constitutions and has been given solemn recognition in international documents. (sec. 15)
  • But there are forms of government under which, despite constitutional recognition of the freedom of religious worship, the public authorities themselves strive to deter the citizens from professing their religion and make life particularly difficult and dangerous for religious bodies. (sec. 15)


    • [Referring to the immediately preceding two paragraphs] This sacred Council gladly welcomes the first of these two facts as a happy sign of the times. In sorrow however it denounces the second as something deplorable. The Council exhorts Catholics and directs an appeal to all men to consider with great care how necessary religious liberty is, especially in the present condition of the human family. (sec. 15)

Articles and Essays by Catholic Scholars

who do not consider the current church a safe place for open dissent, no matter how respectfully expressed


Articles and Essays by Catholic Scholars

who are willing to sign their names

Other voices

Another Voice

Questions From a Ewe

Challenges Facing Catholicism
(Bishop Geoffrey Robinson in converation with Dr Ingrid Shafer)

Locations of visitors to this page

Contact Information

, D.P.A., President
(406) 544-5527
Postal address
P.O. Box 6512
Helena, MT 59604-6512


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